In 1837, the very year when the Lancaster Guardian was founded, Charles Dickens introduced Oliver Twist to the world.
And 178 years later, The Dukes is putting its own twist on the well-loved tale.
Although The Dukes has been producing plays in Williamson Park for almost 30 years, this summer will be the first time it presents an outdoor show based on a story by Charles Dickens.
And it will also be the first time that the park show has been written by Debbie Oates who’s best known as a long serving scriptwriter on Coronation Street. She is now an Associate Artist at The Dukes after successfully adapting two Christmas shows for the theatre.
Artistic director, Joe Sumsion, who will direct Oliver Twist, said: “Debbie Oates did such a great adaptation of A Christmas Carol for us in 2013 and I’ve always wanted her to write a park show.”
“There’s some stories which are so good that you want to put your own stamp on them. There will never be a version of Oliver Twist like there’s going to be in Williamson Park this summer.”
Last year, Debbie mentored Ulverston writer Zosia Wand when she took on the task of adapting Hansel & Gretel as a play in the park. It went on to attract almost 14,000 people.
Last year also saw The Dukes reach an audience milestone with a total of 500,000 people having promenaded in the park since 1987.
Joe said: “The thought of letting the Artful Dodger and Fagin’s gang run amongst a crowd of up to 500 people a night is an exciting prospect.”
The cast of seven professional actors, whose names will be announced shortly, will be complemented by teams of teenagers from The Dukes Young Company who will become Fagin’s gang.
Many of them will use the opportunity to help them pursue careers in theatre, just as Cherylee Houston did way back in 1991 when she appeared in Treasure Island as a member of The Dukes youth theatre.
She now has a permanent role as Izzy Armstrong in Coronation Street and sometimes can be heard speaking dialogue written by Debbie Oates…it’s a small world!